The official at Juba airport marked with a chalk cross each case he checked. Ours had yellow sticky labels on which Alex, from Mission Aviation Fellowship, had written ‘Mundri’. He pointed to the scales and the 7 of us, in turn, got on. Holding our hand luggage ensured secrecy, if desired. We went into the ‘departure lounge’, positioning ourselves near the air conditioning unit. It was a humid 32 degrees.
It was not long before Brad, the Kiwi pilot, was praying for our flight before take off. A matter of routine, he reassured. We had a great view of the Nile and the S Sudan terrain. Brad was avoiding huge banks of clouds. At one point we wondered if he might have to return. Then we saw the little airstrip.
As we stepped out, there was a welcome party. It must be for us, as there were no other planes there. They struck up a song, a tinsel necklace was put around each of our necks, and we were given a sprig of wild flowers and some sweets: a wonderful feeling of welcome. Bishop Bismark introduced himself.
Carefully avoiding potholes filled with water after recent rain, we arrived at our Guesthouse. There was more singing. Not tukels (mud huts) this time, but en suite rooms – even if there were little white frogs in the toilet. It was only 18 hours since leaving Heathrow, but a totally different world.
Sothern Sudan is the world’s youngest nation. The civil war finally ended in 2005. It did not take us long to see the scale of the task ahead. Much of what infrastructure there was got destroyed in the war. But: now there is peace, and a new mood. The Church has a great opportunity to help shape this new nation. What a privilege for us to spend time in this place and be with their youth at this moment.